February 12, 2010

Food For The Soul #2: Layli and Majnun's Love Story

 Photo: Wikipedia

What could possibly be the best gift to give or receive on Valentine's Day? There are numerous possibilities out there, from a card with a handwritten personal message to a box of gourmet chocolates, a bouquet of pink or red roses, a delicious dinner, or some heart shaped jewelery.  The list is long depending on one's creativity and of course, the budget. I have to say that the reddest of roses and the darkest of chocolates have always worked for me! Now, since I don't have a special recipe intended for Valentine's Day, I'd like to tell you about one of the best love stories and share a poem. This is a story that never gets old. Perhaps because it touches our hearts and souls. Why do we enjoy hearing and reading about love stories? Why does it bring out such emotions in us? Is love the affair of the heart or the brain?

Majnun in the wilderness, Persian miniature, Wikipedia

One of  the most famous love stories in our culture is the story of "Layli and Majnun" in the book of Khamsa by Nezami Ganjavi (1141-1209). The romance is between Qays and Layli. They meet at a young age while at school but Layli's father forbids them to see each other and marries Layli off to another suitor, against her wishes. This drives Qays, who was a poet, into a state of madness and frenzy. The name "Majnun" actually means, to be crazy and in this case being crazy and madly in love. The distraught and melancholy Majnun heads out to the desert and recites poetry about his unattainable love for Layli and their torturous separation. The two met secretly and recited poetry to each other. Layli eventually dies of grief and is buried in her wedding gown since she stayed chaste during her marriage.Upon hearing the news of Layli's death, Majnun rushes to her grave and dies right then and there. He is soon buried beside Layli. This was just a short summary of Layli and Majnun's love story. There is a famous saying by Majnun which says, "I am Layli and Layli is I." Mystics believe that it refers to the state of annihilation (fana).  If you are interested, here's a short summary about Layli and Majnun  in Encyclopaedia Iranica. The following is a poem by Nezami:

I Am Yours

 Every breeze that blows
brings your scent to me;
Every bird that sings
calls out your name to me;
Every dream that appears
brings your face to me;
Every glance at your face
has left its trace on me.
I am yours, I am yours,
whether near or far;
Your grief is mine, all mine,
wherever you are.

~ Poem by Nezami Ganjavi
~ Translation by Colin Turner

May your every breath be filled with love!

Peace and blessings.


  1. hmmm , rather crazy although quite romantic

  2. Thanks for sharing this story and have a great Valentine's day!

  3. The poem is beautiful

  4. Thanks for the story! Majnun is crazy in arabic too. I think French literature has a similar story (Tristan Iseult) and probably other cultures as well.

  5. This is so beautiful. Over the last two years I have fallen totally in love with an Iranian man who had only left his country two years before and is the most romantic and loving soul I have ever encountered. I adore this blog and the persian poems and stories. Thank you so much.